OCUFA offers fullest support to OPSEU college faculty in province-wide bargaining

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Over 12,000 faculty at all 24 public colleges across the province represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) are currently bargaining for a better plan for Ontario colleges, including fairness for contract faculty, collegial governance, and academic freedom. OCUFA President Gyllian Phillips sent this letter of support to RM Kennedy, Chair of Ontario College Faculty Division and JP Hornick, Chair of Ontario College Faculty Bargaining Team (via email to ) on September 28, 2017.

Dear RM Kennedy and JP Hornick,

On behalf of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the 17,000 full-time and contract university professors and academic librarians we represent at 28 member associations across the province, I am writing to express our fullest support in your current bargaining for a better plan for Ontario colleges.

Fairness and equal pay for contract faculty, collegial governance that includes faculty in academic-decision making, and academic freedom are all crucial for ensuring quality postsecondary education for Ontario students. Your commitment to these important issues is shared by university professors and academic librarians across the province.

It is unacceptable that over 80 per cent of faculty at Ontario colleges are working on contract. Universities have also been hiring more and more professors on short-term contracts, with low wages, no job security, and limited access to benefits. Estimates suggest that since 2000, the number of courses taught by sessional contract faculty has doubled at Ontario universities.

Sessional contract professors often work at the same institution for many years, even decades, but still have to re-apply for their job every four months. This precarious work arrangement lacks basic respect and has negative impacts on general and mental health, household well-being and community participation. Improving job security for contract faculty is a necessary step that would allow contract faculty to plan their lives, offer more stability in the system, and deliver benefits for the quality of education offered to students.

Contract faculty are also paid significantly less than their full-time colleagues for teaching the same courses. Addressing equal pay will help close the pay gap for women and racialized workers who are overrepresented in part-time, contract, and temporary employment. We know that in the college system over 75 per cent of the lowest paid contract faculty are women, and research shows about two thirds of contract faculty at Ontario universities are women.

The government has already made a commitment to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. Colleges in Ontario have an opportunity to get ahead of the law and commit to equal pay for contract faculty in this round of bargaining. There is wide support for equal pay — a recent poll showed 85 per cent of Ontarians believe contract professors should receive equal pay for the same work as their full-time colleagues.

University faculty also support your efforts to increase the complement of full-time faculty at Ontario colleges. It is unacceptable that in recent decades full-time faculty hiring has dropped while enrolment has doubled in the college system. We know first hand that it is absolutely critical that faculty hiring keeps pace with student enrolment. When it doesn’t, the number of students grows while the number of professors shrinks, resulting in less one-on-one engagement, fewer opportunities for mentorship, and larger class sizes — all of which significantly compromise student success

As university faculty, we understand that collegial governance is central to the preservation of academic integrity and is necessary to ensure Ontario’s universities remain vibrant spaces committed to delivering quality education to students. Introducing collegial governance at Ontario’s colleges, including academic senates with majority faculty representation alongside students and administrators, would help to ensure that academic decisions are made with input from those best placed to advise on these matters.

At the course level, your call for a minimum standard that guarantees academic freedom for college faculty is sensible. Academic freedom is necessary to ensure academic standards and the quality of your students’ degree programs. As university faculty, we know that without academic freedom — the ability to pursue research, explore ideas, and teach concepts free from fear or interference — the broader role of our institutions in society of promoting democracy and fostering critical thinking is threatened.

The issues that college faculty are prioritizing in this round of bargaining are at the heart of our ability as faculty to deliver high-quality postsecondary education to students across the province. A course correction at Ontario’s colleges is needed to move away from a reliance on contract faculty and to ensure faculty are included in academic decision-making. The status quo is unfair to those working in these precarious jobs, and to students who deserve quality, stability and continuity in their educational experience.

With the government taking steps to make labour law more fair for workers and the growing public support for these measures, now is the time for colleges to show leadership and invest in good jobs that will provide a strong educational foundation for college students for years to come. Ontario’s university professors and academic librarians thank you for your leadership on these important issues, and support you in your efforts to get a fair deal for college faculty.

Sincerely,

Gyllian Phillips

President, OCUFA

Cc:
Peter McKeracher, College Employer Council ()
Sonia Del Missier, College Employer Council ()
Hon. Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development ()
Hon. Kevin Flynn, Minister of Labour ()
MPP Peggy Sattler, NDP Critic for Advanced Education, Skills and Development ()
MPP Lorne Coe, PC Critic for Post-Secondary Education ()
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President ()

 

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